In the America I grew up in, most people I knew considered themselves to be part of the middle class. My father was a laborer at Dubuque Packing Company and my mother cleaned other people’s houses. Although I didn’t understand what the American Dream meant at the time, I knew I wanted to achieve more than my parents. Through a combination of hard work, personal responsibility and education I was able to do that. But today I worry about what type of country and economic conditions my children will inherit. As baseball great Yogi Berra once said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.”
Looking back, the first eight years of the last decade were reasonably good for the American worker. From 2001 until the recession began, the average American worker saw their wages grow faster than the cost of living by approximately seven percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In other words American workers standard of living increased. During this timeframe the unemployment rate was between four and six percent and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was growing about three percent annually.
Since the recession began average wages for all American workers have decreased while the cost of living has increased – in other words our standard of living has decreased the last two years. A closer look at the numbers reveal that American workers have basically given back all the gains they made from 2001 until the recession began. Today the “official” unemployment rate stands at 9.1%, while the “underemployment” rate is a jaw-dropping 17%. Inexcusably 25 million of our fellow citizens are unemployed, underemployed or stopped looking for work. If we don’t learn to live within our means and become competitive in today’s global economy, the America we leave to our children will be, for the first time, worse than the one we inherited.
Though the wages of Americans have kept up with overall inflation during the past decade, storm clouds are gathering on the inflation horizon. Four key components of inflation that matter to Americans are food, energy, education and healthcare. Food prices are rising due to ethanol subsidies. Energy prices are rising due to a weak-dollar policy. College tuition and healthcare are heavily subsidized by the government. According to the BLS, college costs have grown at TRIPLE the rate of inflation and healthcare costs at DOUBLE the inflation rate during the last decade. Government gets involved and prices soar. One can see why the American worker is worried.
When I was growing up America was a nation of optimistic “go-getters” that had a “can do” spirit. But now we have tens of millions of citizens that believe they have no future and that apparently have no problem with being dependent on the government. Instead of all citizens working toward their own American dream we now have more and more Americans looking for government to solve their problems.
The federal government does not solve problems – it subsidizes them. Don’t let government convince you that you can’t do it without their help. Politicians pander for your vote but they are not going to achieve your goals for you. Only YOU can do that. Don’t put faith into the government – have faith in yourself. Just because someone else is getting ahead doesn’t mean you’re falling behind. Spend less than you make every year. Be the hardest worker your company has. And always remember that everyone fails but as Vince Lombardi, the former football coach of the Green Bay Packers once said, “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”
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